Ask Jimmy and the Bug

Jimmy and the Bug

Hey Bug! The 4th grader at Keller School wants to know: “If you eat too much will you explode?

there is a picture of a nebula

Only in science fiction movies will you see an exploding stomach. Your stomach, which grinds, churns, and temporarily stores your food, is designed to stretch.

Unlike a starfish, which can push its stomach out of its mouth and plop it over its dinner, you digest the food you eat inside your body. By a process called peristalsis, muscles contract in waves to push your food through your digestive tract, which is like a long tube (open at both ends) and includes your mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines.

Along the way, your body breaks down your food into smaller and smaller pieces and takes in or absorbs what it needs. The rest passes out of your body as feces (poop).

There are two centers in your brain that control your eating behavior. One senses that you need energy and tells you to eat; the other senses that you've had enough and tells you to stop. But sometimes, people don't pay attention to these messages. Champion competitive eaters like Takeru Kobayashi, a young Japanese man who ate 50 1/2 hot dogs in 12 minutes, ignore their brains for fame and glory.

But overeating can turn on the “vomiting center” in your brain. When it sends messages to your digestive tract, peristalsis is reversed. Chewed, churned, and partially digested food from your stomach and upper small intestine is pushed up by your muscles until it explodes out of your mouth.

Activity

  1. How is a person's digestive process different from a starfish's digestive process?
    [anno: A person takes food into the body through the mouth. The starfish pushes its stomach out of its body and wraps it around the food.]
  2. The small intestine is a long tube coiled up inside the human body. After food leaves the stomach, it spends a long time traveling through the small intestine. Why do you think the small intestine is so long?
    [anno: Answers may vary but could include that the small intestine is long because the body needs time to get the nutrients it needs from the food.]
  3. What do you think happens to the nutrients that a person's body collects from the food the person ate?
    [anno: Answers may vary but could include that the nutrients are used to help maintain the body and give the body energy. Some nutrients may be stored in cells for use later.]